There are great tips & tricks that you can use anytime you go to play a round of golf.
Naples is endless summer where you can play year round so this is a great use case for Applied Sports Psychology. To that end, I am offering tips for planning your own ideal round of golf. These are a series of suggestions to consider prior to setting foot on the course, tips to use during the round, and a powerful debrief that will lead to your next ideal day on the links.
BEFORE HEADING OUT
Start with considering your tee time. Although many golfers enjoy an early tee time, Dr. Charles Czeisler, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard University, wrote an article in The New York Times, suggesting that golfers begin their rounds either around 10 a.m. or 4 p.m., when we are most alert. Of course, it does get hot out there, so do what works best for you both physically and mentally for an ideal round.
Continue with setting an intention for the round. For example, your intention may be to work on your short or long game. It could also be totally unrelated to your skill set and may be more focused on connecting with friends or just having fun.
Whatever your intention, being mindful of what you want to create when you’re on the course for that ideal round helps you pay attention to things that will make it happen. Setting an intention naturally leads to setting some goals. Set some specific, measurable and realistic goals around your intention.
Remember to focus on the process and not the outcome or score. For instance, working on the long game might include a goal of visualizing the trajectory of the ball with each drive. Or you might decide to include a relaxation breath in your pre-shot routine.
ON THE COURSE
Another way to mentally prepare for an ideal round is to develop a pre-round routine. In your routine you might review your intention, check in with your written goals and then read an inspirational quote, article excerpt or passage. It could also include a little stretching, yoga and or focused breathing. Routines are highly individualized, so have fun creating the one that fits best for you. It’s critical to use it regularly for motivation and focus.
To continue your mental edge on the course, use mindfulness strategies to quiet your inner critic. One of the biggest challenges I see in my practice with athletes is negative self-talk, which leads to a breakdown in confidence and performance anxiety. Over time, negative self-talk becomes a habit.
Developing a new way of thinking can impact performance in a radical way. Create a new habit of simply observing your thoughts, without judgment, and then gently bringing your focus into the moment by noticing, with any of your senses, what is happening in that very moment.
One golfer spoke of refocusing on the task by noticing the feel of the club in her hand. Managing focus is essential to good golf. Learning when to turn the focus intensity up and when to let it down can conserve mental energy and maximize your performance. Try turning on the focus the moment you take your club out of the bag, using a cue, and then let the focus go with a relaxation breath once you return the club to the bag. Cue words, like your ideal round, are as individual as you are.
Have fun with discovering yours. Some like something as practical as “focus” or “right here, right now” and others use a cue word or phrase with meaning only to them.
Finally, on this very special day on the course, finish up with a debriefing. Ask yourself the following questions:
What did I do well today?
What did I learn about myself as a golfer today?
What do I want to do differently next time?
These questions keep you focused on the positives, paying attention to things you can control, and keep your performance moving forward. It’s time to get out there and play. The possibilities for your ideal day are waiting to be created.
Kathy A. Feinstein, M.S., is a licensed mental health counselor and a certified consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. This article was originally featured in the June 2015 edition of e Bella Magazine in Naples, FL. View the article online here.